top of page
  • Rory O'Keeffe

Iraq and Yezidis: troops seize Sinjar

Iraqi and Iranian-backed forces have seized the Yezidi city of Sinjar, where in August 2014, IS committed one of its most horrific massacres (and then chased the Yezidi population onto the Nineveh plains, where it surrounded them on a mountain). It had been ‘liberated’ by Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG fighters in November 2015, but almost no Yezidis returned there.

As with the re-taking of Kirkuk, this is a deliberate response by Iraqi (and Iranian militia Hashd al Shaabi) forces to the Kurdish independence referendum of 25 September, but it is also a little more complicated.

Because the Yezidis speak Kurdish (Kurmanji), but do not regard themselves – nor are they regarded by Kurds – as Kurdish.

Kurds, Arabs and Christians in the region have all, at different times, attempted to wipe the Yezidis out (their worship of the ‘Peacock Angel’ {Lucifer, who in Yezidi mythology wins back his place as God’s most trusted assistant} as second only to God, has seen them consistently vilified as ‘devil worshippers’) and refugees at Faneromeni and Petra camps here in Greece told me that they had actually been treated better by Saddam Hussein than by the Kurds, when the latter took over the ‘guardianship’ of the town when the Iraqi dictator was deposed (and they were not especially happy under Saddam Hussein).

In some cases, they described in detail their terror as they told a Kurdish militia guarding a bridge that they were being chased by IS, and the militia forced them to wait 18 hours, never sure how far IS was behind them, before they were allowed to cross. In the event, IS had chased the other Sinjar residents East. But neither the Yezidis, nor the Kurds, knew that at this stage.

This is not to say that the Iraqi and Iranian forces’ seizure of Sinjar is a good thing – it is in fact a second violent provocation in as many days of the Iraqi Kurdish population, who have done little to deserve it and whose response could itself spark a far wider war, and like the seizure of Kirkuk, it is likely to be civilians who pay the greatest price.

But it is also not identical to the re-taking of Kirkuk. The relationship between Iraqi Arabs, Iraqi Kurds and Iraqi Yezidis is not a simple one, and in recent decades, the Yezidis and Arabs have been closer than the two Kurdish-speaking groups have been.

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
bottom of page